Sunday, 21 September 2008

No let me hate him. It'll keep me awake before the coffee kicks in.

I hate practical jokes.

Actually I should qualify that. I don't mind the occasional prank. I worked in an office once where the rest of the staff where given a bunch of Christmas decorations with which to liven up the work place with festive cheer. I took a couple of days off only to return to find the entire lot covering my chair and my work station, right down to a tiny little bit of tinsel wrapped around the mouse chord, while the rest of the office was bare. Made me chuckle for about a week before somebody stepped in and advised it was a potential health and safety risk. Killjoy.

But I really really hate practical jokes that serve no purpose other than to mock someone else. You know, like loosening the top of a salt shaker and waiting for someone to use it. Gags like that prey on people's trust and naivety. And the truth is their not funny, just mean spirited.

Which is why I don't understand the mentality of a hoaxer. I mean I know it's fun to pretend you're something you're not (Gee note: Especially when you're in a bar at 1 am attempting to attract members of the opposite sex by claiming you're a racing car driver. “Yeah baby, you know that Lewis Hamilton? I whupped him in a Go Kart once. True story.”). But hoaxes generally serve no purpose other than to make other people look foolish. That's of course if they succeed. If they don't the hoaxer themself tends to end up looking like an idiot.

Unfortunately in the world of cryptozoology hoaxes are rife. From the “Flying Bigfoot of Florida” to the “Surgeon's Photo” the temptation to dupe the general public in to believing that monster's walk amongst us is obviously quite strong with some people.

Such was the case in Georgia this summer when the world's media were invited to a press conference to learn about the “discovery” of the body of an animal that was reported to be the fabled Bigfoot (Gee note: It must be noted that when I say Georgia I am of course referring to the U.S. State and not the country that at the time was engaged in a conflict with their neighbours Russia. Although that would have been amazing. “Comrade Boris, the Russians are advancing. What should we do?” “Sheesh Ivan I do not know. Wait! I've got it! We will hold a press conference to say we have found the Bigfoot that the American's seem so crazy about. That will teach those no good Russians!” “Mmmm. You know sometimes Boris I wonder why we ever made you General.”).

Now the story went that two men named Rick Dyer, a former prison guard, and Matthew Whitton, an officer with the County Clay Police Department, went down to the woods one day and, gosh, did they have a big surprise. For there in a clearing lay the corpse of a giant beast, it's intestines hanging from a wound in it's belly. Whitton and Dyer sensing that they had found something special carried the body, entrails and all, back to their truck. They then took it to an “undisclosed location” where they threw it in to a large freezer for preservation.

Sometime after that Whitton and Dyer got in touch with Tom Biscardi, the “Real” Bigfoot hunter if his website is to be believed (Gee note: Unlike all those sell out Bigfoot hunter's who have turned their back on the streets and gone corporate. Those guys suck.). If Biscardi's name sounds familiar it's probably because he was involved in a massive controversy back in 2005 when he claimed on the radio show Coast to Coast AM to have found, wait for it, Bigfoot. He said he would air footage of said ape man on his website which could be viewed for a subscription charge of $15. When the day finally arrived that the footage was due to be shown there was no Bigfoot, or in fact any video feed of any kind. Instead Biscardi claimed he himself had been “hoodwinked” (Gee note: By a bunch of “scallywags” no doubt) and that he was saddened to report that the specimen had never existed. Which does kind of beg the question as to what exactly he'd set up a camera to film in the first place? A large badger perhaps?

Anyway back to Georgia. Biscardi, having already played this game before, immediately got in touch with pretty much every news organisation in the world. And, like migrating birds, they all came to town. BBC, CNN, ABC, FOX, etc, etc. Amazingly the cryptozoology community, having been burnt by Biscardi before, immediately smelled a rubber gorilla costume rat. Loren Coleman, the cryptozoology version of Jurassic Park's Alan Grant, basically called Biscardi everything but a fraud on his Cryptomundo blog. It turns out Biscardi had convinced some poor sap to stump up $50,000 so that Whitton and Dyer would hand the body over to him. During this time Whitton and Dyer's story about discovering the body had changed a good four or five times, and in the course of the press conference Biscardi became, well, kind of aggressive when questioned. He did however show a photograph of the alleged body, and offered to show more on his website.

For $2 a pop.

An associate of Biscardi's, someone called Steve Kulls who by happy coincidence happened to be the first person to interview Dyer on his internet radio show, then got to work examining the body. Because the “corpse” was frozen Kulls had to wait around and let it defrost naturally so not to spoil or distort any of it's flesh. As soon as a patch of fur materialised Kulls removed a sample and immediately thought it looked and felt synthetic. To further prove this theory he then set fire to said sample and watched it curl up in to a ball, much like a thin strand of plastic would. Kulls then ordered his crew to set to the rest of the specimen with hair dryers and heaters. When the body had thawed out it was discovered the head was hollow, and the feet were made of rubber. (Gee note: On a completely unrelated note, does anyone remember the movie “Harry and the Hendersons”? Wouldn't it be great if the tag line for that film was “They've shacked up with a sasquatch!”? Just saying, that would pretty cool right?)

And so, if you believe Kulls, he informed Biscardi of this. Biscardi apparently challenged Whitton and Dyer. They confessed “Bigfoot” was nothing more than a Halloween costume. Bicardi again claimed he had been “hoodwinked”. A lot of people said “I told you so”. Coleman and contempories ran a series of blogs telling the world that something like this fiasco does more harm than good when it comes to serious study of cryptozoology. Whitton got fired from the police department. He and Dyer then promptly stopped picking up the phone. Biscardi then started to claim on his website that he was responsible for discovering it was a hoax after all, making it almost sound heroic.

And so the great Bigfoot Hoax of 2008 dragged it's sorry self to a close, and it's probably time to ask the question: What lessons have we learnt from it?

Well apart from the certain truth that Tom Biscardi was more than likely in on the whole thing from the start, which would make him nothing more than a two bit hustler at best, and that really Loren Coleman is probably the world's most astute man, not much it turns out.

The only positive thing that can be taken from this is that it was the “sensible” media that blew the whole thing out of proportion. In a way organisations like the BBC, CNN and FOX were the one's that lost the plot in reporting this in the first place, especially when the people who were the most knowledgeable and reliable about the subject all pretty much agreed that it was nothing more than a hoax.

Which is really pleasing in some regards. Because if you're reading this simply because you happen to be, like me, interested in things that are a bit odd then you probably have the same reservations as I do about sharing it with other people. It's one of those things that is deemed to make one a “social outcast” like reading comics or watching professional wrestling. So it's good to know that sometimes, just sometimes, the “sane” people go a little bit crazier than the “crazies”.

Having said that, seeing as the “sane” people are the one's who also keep us informed about what's going on in the middle east or what's going on with our country's economic problems, I'm not sure that's a very pleasing thought at all.

**************************UPDATE****************************************

It turns out the tag line for “Harry and the Hendersons” is “When you can't believe your eyes, trust your heart”.

How lame is that? Seriously “They've shacked up with a sasquatch!” is a thousand times better.

Hollywood should totally snap me up.

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